EPA Grants Florida Water Regs Reprieve

EPA has agreed to a one-month extension on imposing controversial water pollution standards for Florida.

It will use the extra time to review public input. The agency’s decision comes on the heels of U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson asking EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson to delay the start of the new rules due to voluminous public comment.

“I support new water standards but many Florida residents, municipalities, businesses and farmers have expressed concern about the potential cost of these standards and the validity of the science,” Nelson said about his request for more time for the government to consider public input.

The EPA was poised to impose the new water pollution standards for Florida on Oct. 15. The agency’s decision now means they won’t go into effect until Nov. 15.

The proposed water quality regulations have drawn criticism from many local governments, businesses and agricultural interests in Florida. The rules would impose strict numeric limits on the amount of nitrogen and phosphorus that can be present in Florida lakes, rivers, and streams. But some local governments contend the new standards could even apply to drainage ditches and wastewater treatment plant discharges, thereby making them impossible to meet.

Below is text of Nelson’s letter to EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson.

September 16, 2010

The Honorable Lisa Jackson
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
1200 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20460

Dear Administrator Jackson,

As you are aware, in January the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued a proposed rule to establish numeric nutrient criteria for Florida lakes, flowing waters, and clear springs.

As we have discussed, I share the concerns many Florida residents, municipalities, businesses, and farmers have about the potential cost of compliance with these standards and the validity of the science. I believe you made the right decision to submit the portions of the rule related to downstream values, canals, coastal, and estuarine waters to the EPA Science Advisory Board for peer review and delay finalizing those rules until August 2012. However, I am concerned that the rule for lakes, streams, and springs is still set to be finalized on October 15, 2010.

On August 3, 2010, EPA published a notice in the Federal Register soliciting comments on new data and options to divide the watershed regions of the state. This publication was followed by a thirty-day public comment period. As I understand it, EPA has received thousands of comments on this rule. Given the large amount of input, I urge you to delay finalizing the rule for lakes, streams, and springs and allow ample time to fully consider the comments.

Clean water is a goal we all share. That is why it is imperative that this regulation is finalized in a deliberative manner, utilizing sound science and considering the effects of implementation. Rushing to finalize the rule could result in further uncertainty and unnecessary economic hardship for municipal governments and Florida industry.

I look forward to your response and thank you in advance for your efforts to ensure that the concerns of Floridians are fully considered when deciding how to finalize and implement this rule.

Bill Nelson

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